Metal Gear: James Young's Incredible Synthetic ArmBy Elouise Mullen -
You wake up in an unfamiliar place. You are in pain, your memory is hazy and it feels like your limbs are weighed down by ten-tonne bricks. You find that your arm has been removed from your body and has been replaced with a synthetic…Sounds like something from a video game, right? Well, that’s because it is. Some readers will recognise this from Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. The stuff of fiction.
Well, not quite. James Young, a 26 year old biochemical scientist who lost an arm and a leg in a train accident four years ago today, has been kitted out with a futuristic limb that is capable of all kinds of wonderful things. It can charge his phone via a USB port, it can give him Twitter updates via a small screen, and its display of LED lights can be synchronised with his heartbeat. It even contains a detachable drone.
The arm was designed in cooperation with Konami, the makers of Metal Gear Solid, and Sophie de Oliveira Barata from the Alternative Limb Project. And it really is remarkable. Aside from being able to do all the fancy stuff listed above, the new limb can also be manipulated to function in a far more realistic and practical way than standard issue NHS prosthetics. It’s all very sciencey, but in brief, the arm is fitted with a 3D-printed hand. This is controlled by sensors which can detect minute movements in the muscles of James’ back.
James is now raising funds to make his new limb more permanent – the current model is only a prototype, and still needs to be fine-tuned fairly regularly. It is also limited in that it is attached to James externally, and so can’t offer any real feeling. Emerging technologies mean that there is a procedure available that could secure a functioning synthetic limb to James’ bone, meaning he would regain the feeling in his limbs which NHS prosthetics simply can’t offer. You can donate to James via https://www.gofundme.com/titaniumjames.
Besides providing James with physical abilities, the synthetic arm has done much for his mental state. At the time of his accident, he described himself as “in a low place”. Yet the futuristic limb has made him hopeful that in the future his limbs will be easily fitted to his bones. Comparing himself to Snake, James says, “Pretty much everyone in his team has had some sort of terrible accident and they’re all very bitter about it and embarking on a big revenge spree. That definitely isn’t me”. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/metal-gear-solid-prosthetics-arm-amputee-james-young-hi-tech-synthetic-limb-a6887071.html)
Catch James’ BBC Three documentary at 4pm tonight: Bodyhack: Metal Gear Man.
Like what you read? Elouise also writes at www.elouisewanders.wordpress.com